Triple Concerto

for Piano, Violin, Cello and Orchestra

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

Duration: 24:00
Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

For me, there is nothing more inspiring than writing for performers whose work I know well and love. My 1987 Trio (commissioned by the Kennedy Center, New York's 92nd St. Y, and San Francisco Performances for the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio) was the product of such inspiration. The resulting Piano Trio has since become one of my most widely performed chamber works and, especially in the hands of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, it has given me one of composing's greatest pleasures: that of hearing my own work come back to me after it has become seasoned: and belongs more to its performers than to its composer. Likewise, my Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, written in 1991 for Jamie Laredo and Sharon Robinson, has afforded me the same continuum of stimulating musical relationship. And I must add that in 1993, on the same night as the World Premiere of my Symphony No. 3 with the New York Philharmonic, Zdenek Macal led the Minnesota Orchestra in the one-hundredth performance of my "Celebration". So it was with the greatest pleasure that I accepted this commission for the Triple Concerto. That composing a Triple Concerto is also something of a high-wire act added a nice touch of challenge and danger to the mix.

The dramatic situation of the concerto interests me much (I've written 12 so far). For one thing, there is the opportunity for deep exploration of the nature of the solo instruments: the challenge of understanding and exploiting their character, not only as revealed in their literature, but also hiding undiscovered within the instrument. Then there is the relationship between the solo instrument(s) and the orchestra, which I like to cast not as a battle for supremacy, but instead, as solo and orchestra "over and against" one another in an existential encounter. A Triple Concerto offers a further challenge of going beyond the solo nature of each instrument to the chamber music-like relationship of the three.

As contemporary artists always have, today's composers exist at a juncture between past and present. And all of us, whether we write music or perform it or listen to it, face a similar challenge: how to relate meaningfully to the past without becoming embedded in it; how to press toward the future without abandoning the richness of our heritage. It is often remarked that some audiences seem to fear the new. To this I might add that some composers seem to fear the past. The rhetoric of "progress", the worship of the "cutting edge", can point us away from the heart of music just as surely as the worship of a canon of masterpieces can undermine the adventure of it all.

And "adventure" is such an appropriate word! The audience shouldn't forget that Beethoven's Triple Concerto was written on blank paper. We composers shouldn't be afraid to draw on a rich legacy as we fill our blank pages with our own adventure.

My Triple Concerto is scored for exactly the same instrumentation as the Beethoven (though he would certainly be startled by some of the American jazz techniques and the extraordinary facility the modern timpanist can be expected to have at his fingertips). Even using the same basic orchestration, each composer has a unique orchestral "fingerprint," and so the sound of the same orchestra will be quite different, much as two painters can take the same palette and produce very different results. My new Triple Concerto has other references to Beethoven, as a kind of homage to a composer who has deeply affected my life.

Having said all of this, the real subject of music, in my aesthetic, is the evolution of musical material and the parallel spiritual journey that occurs. For me, each piece is an exploration of a musical and human universe, inspired by its circumstances, but aiming at something more transcendent.

Scores & Parts

Triple Concerto - Full Score - Study
Triple Concerto - Soli Parts

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Kennedy Center, New York?s 92nd St. Y, and San Francisco Performances for the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio
Composition Date 1995
Orchestration Pno. Vln. Vcl. soli; 1 2 2 2 - 2 2 0 0; Timp. Str.
Premiere February 7th, 1996. Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, Minnesota Orchestra, conducted by Zdenek Macal.